5 May 2010

Authority insists NZ oil spill regulations are stringent

7:08 pm on 5 May 2010

Maritime New Zealand says the country's environmental safeguards against oil spills from offshore platforms are as good as anywhere in the world.

Efforts are continuing in Gulf of Mexico to stem a massive oil spill from an undersea well where a rig exploded two weeks ago.

It has been revealed that United States company Anadarko, which owns 25% of the ruined well, has a 50-50 deal with Australia's Origin Energy to prospect part of the Canterbury Basin.

Anadarko is facing huge costs over the wrecked BP well. The Gulf accident is expected to cost millions of dollars and could affect commitments to drilling elsewhere.

Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee says he is confident a situation like the Gulf of Mexico will not happen in New Zealand waters because of the environmental standards in place.

But the Environmental and Conservation Organisation (ECO) says the minister is incorrect because there are effectively no regulations over oil operations beyond 12 nautical miles out to sea.

Co-chair Barry Weeber says the Tui oil field and new prospecting in the Canterbury Basin are covered by very few environmental standards, because New Zealand has not signed a range of international conventions which deal with it.

An environmental analyst at Maritime New Zealand says all oil and gas operations are regulated over the whole of the exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles.

Alison Lane says all operations must have a management and oil spill response plan approved by authorities and are audited every year.

Rules set by Maritime New Zealand and the Department of Labour are among the most stringent in the world, Dr Lane says.

BP says the cost of containing the spill and securing the original well is running at about $US6 million a day. A flotilla of nearly 200 boats is tackling the slick.